The Supreme Court of the United States rarely grants certiorari in a veterans benefits case. Congress gave the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit exclusive jurisdiction over veterans appeals in 1988 but, until 2009, the Supreme Court had reviewed only two Federal Circuit veterans decisions. In the 2010 Term, however, the Court decided its second veterans case in less than two years. Although patent lawyers are familiar with a trend of increasing Supreme Court interest in the Federal Circuit’s work, little attention has been paid to the similar, albeit incipient, trend that may be emerging in the field of veterans law. In this Article, I explore whether the recent increase in Supreme Court veterans cases indicates a new, genuine interest in veterans law or is simply an aberration. Although I conclude that it is too early to tell whether a clear trend is developing, the factors that have potentially contributed to the Court granting certiorari in two cases in three Terms have the potential to fuel a larger veterans docket for the Supreme Court in the future. Most notably, veterans in recent years have increasingly been represented by attorneys with substantial experience in both the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit, thanks to newly created pro bono programs for veterans who have meritorious claims but no legal counsel.
Paul R. Gugliuzza, Veterans Benefits in 2010: A New Dialogue Between the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit, 60 Am. U. L. Rev. 1201 (2011), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/252